Wigan Warriors 22 Castleford Tigers 12: Bevan French bags two tries on return

Bevan French marked his return to Super League action with two well-taken tries as Wigan maintained their perfect start with an impressive victory.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:58 pm
Bevan French celebrates his try-scoring return

French's try just before the break gave the hosts a 12-8 lead at half-time, and he later crossed for a second to mark his first match of the year in style.

The Australian was also outstanding under the high-ball and nearly pulled off a wonderful try-saving tackle, but this was certainly not a one-man show.

Wigan's defence was typically aggressive and well-drilled, there were very few lapses throughout their performance, and at their best there was an impressive amount of pace, variety and drive to their attack.

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John Bateman in action

Jackson Hastings and Harry Smith pulled the strings, Zak Hardaker passed the 1,000 career points milestone with a try and three goals, and their homegrown forwards again stood tall, particularly Morgan Smithies.

There was certainly much for Wigan to smile about, other than the win.

Castleford went into the game also unbeaten and boasting the joint-best attack in the league - presenting an acid-test for Adrian Lam's mean defence, which had leaked just two tries in their last three games.

They were playing only their second match at the DW Stadium in 14 months, while French shone on his first match of the year.

He replaced teenager Umyla Hanley on the wing, with Lam opting to stick with Hardaker at full-back and - with a clutch of three-quarters missing - a makeshift centre pairing of Willie Isa and Liam Farrell.

Thomas Leuluai failed to recover from a sternum injury, which saw Smith promoted from the bench to a starting halfback spot and Liam Byrne returning to a muscular bench.

French was heavily involved in the opening exchanges, drifting from wing to midfield at the end of the Tigers' sets to defuse the early kicks.

The sides went set-for-set but Jordan Turner's 40-20 in the 11th minute, and a subsequent penalty in Cas' favour, presented the visitors the platform to break the deadlock.

And in the 15th minute, Derrell Olpherts finished off a crisp attack to glide in at the corner, Paul McShane's conversion making it 6-0.

Wigan ended a couple of their sets poorly and when they managed a response, it stemmed from their own half as Hastings pierced the defence and set-off down field. He was hauled down but from the next play, Smith darted through a retreating defence and though he was grounded, his looping pass allowed Hardaker to race over. His conversion locked the scores.

Niggling penalties have littered Wigan's start to the campaign and two more piggybacked Cas' into their own half and allowed McShane to nudge the visitors 8-6 ahead.

But the hosts dialed up the tempo and took the lead for the first time three minutes before half-time, as quick hands to the left saw French zip over for a try Hardaker converted.

From the restart the Warriors continued where they had left off with a bright display - only to be hit by a sucker-punch. Greg Eden's long-range break set the platform for Olpherts to cross for his second, despite French's best efforts to hold him up, leveling the score 12-12.

To their credit, Wigan didn't let that setback rattle them. And after Hardaker's pinballing run in midfield, Hastings floated a measured kick over the defence and into the path of a jet-heeled French to make it 16-12.

With Joe Bullock adding his presence from the bench, Sam Powell went close on the hour but was held up - as a running battle between Brad Singleton and Liam Watts provided an intriguing subplot.

Wigan poked and prodded as they tried to put the game to bed, while defending the occasional counter, until Powell eased the shredded nerves when he drove for the line and crossed with seven minutes to go. Hardaker's conversion opened up a 10 point gap - and saw him pass the 1,000 career points mark.

Wigan: Hardaker; Bibby, Isa, Farrell, French; Smith, Hastings; Singleton, Powell, Clubb, Bateman, Smithies, Partington. Subs: Shorrocks, Bullock, Byrne, Havard.

Castleford: Evalds; Olpherts, Mata'utia, Shenton, Eden; Turner, Trueman; Hepi, McShane, Watts, Blair, Holmes, Massey. Subs: Millington, Milner, Bienek, Martin.

Referee: Chris Kendall

Half-time: 12-8

Starman: Bevan French